AtlantiCare expands network of outpatient surgery centers

Beth Fitzgerald//January 13, 2015

AtlantiCare expands network of outpatient surgery centers

Beth Fitzgerald//January 13, 2015

With the opening last week of its third outpatient surgery center, AtlantiCare now offers same-day surgery in Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties and can provide this lower-cost option closer to where patients live.Melissa Bushnell, executive director of AtlantiCare Surgery Centers, said the new center in Little Egg Harbor, Ocean County, is the former Sea Oaks Surgery Center, which was acquired by AtlantiCare.

A major southern New Jersey health system with its flagship regional medical center in Atlantic City and Pomona, AtlantiCare in 1997 opened its first surgery center in Egg Harbor Township, which did more than 17,000 procedures last year. The second one in Cape May Court House, acquired in 2009, did more than 4,000 procedures last year.

The new one in Little Egg Harbor did about 1,400 procedures last year, but that is expected to grow.

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Bushnell said only a handful of surgeons had been using that center, while going forward all 125 surgeons affiliated with AtlantiCare’s surgery centers will be able to do same-day surgery in all three locations.

“Now we can provide convenience, safety and a cost-effective surgical model to our patients in all three counties,” Bushnell said.

Health care experts say that same-day surgeries, which don’t require an overnight hospital stay, are generally less expensive than surgery done in a hospital. And cost has become a more critical factor in recent years, as more people enroll in high-deductible health plans that require patients to pay a higher share of the medical bill.

Bushnell said that, while deciding where to locate a new center, AtlantiCare did an analysis and found that, last year, about 1,300 patients from Ocean County came to AtlantiCare’s Atlantic County surgery center.

“We felt by bringing our surgery center to Ocean County, patients would have the convenience of having their surgical procedures done closer to their homes,” she said.

Ambulatory surgery centers play a major role in health care delivery in New Jersey.

There are about 285 ASCs in New Jersey, and they perform an estimated 1 million procedures a year, according to the New Jersey Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers. Cost and reimbursements vary among different ASCs and different health plans. According to the NJAASC, Medicare pays ambulatory surgery centers about 53 percent of what it pays for the same procedure in a hospital outpatient department.

A hospital stay is required for major operations such as cardiac surgery and full joint replacement, but a wide variety of procedures are done in surgery centers, including cataract and other ophthalmology procedures; pain management; tonsillectomies and sinus surgeries; and various orthopedic procedures.

As AtlanticCare expands its same-day surgery center network, it also has seen a long-term trend of increased surgeries at  AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. Combined surgeries at the medical center’s two campuses, in Pomona and Atlantic City, totaled 11,610 in 2014, compared with 8,848 in 2007. In February 2014, AtlantiCare broke ground on a $62.5 million expansion and modernization at Pomona that includes additional operating rooms.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Tornetta said, “Inpatient elective cases are growing, which is why we are adding operating space.”


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